House of David (commune)

House of David (commune)

:"This article is about a twentieth-century religious commune. For the ancient House of David, see Davidic line".

The House of David was a religious commune founded in 1903 by Benjamin and Mary Purnell. Based in and around Benton Harbor, Michigan, and High Island (Michigan), the commune required its members to refrain from sex, haircuts, shaving, and the eating of meat. Starting around 1907 the community ran "The Springs of Eden Park" which became a popular Michigan vacation spot in the 1930s.

The House of David operated a famous barnstorming baseball team, which toured rural America from the 1920s to the 1950s, playing amateur and semi-pro teams in exhibition games. The organization also fielded nationally known musical [ bands] between 1906 and 1927. During that period these bands toured the country almost non-stop primarily on the three top vaudeville circuits: the Pantages, the Keith and the Orpheum. The House of David also operated a world-famous amusement [ park and zoo] .

The House of David commune reached the peak of its operations in 1907-1927. Difficulties arose in the 1920s, as the "Detroit Free Press" and other newspapers began running articles attacking Benjamin Purnell, who was accused of violating the commune's oath of celibacy. Purnell was tried in Berrien County, Michigan, for "public immorality," and 13 young women, placed under oath, confessed to having had sex with the patriarch. The trial led to Purnell's expulsion from the commune in 1927, and the former leader died in 1929; his body was mummified and kept in a glass coffin in the commune. The group suffered further splintering after his death and ultimately split into two groups. One group, run by Purnell's wife Mary, remained successful until her death at 91 in 1953. The group has since declined, but still has a few dozen members.

External links

* [ House of David Baseball Team Research Project]
* [ House of David Museum]
* [ House of David Park & Zoo Tour]
* [ Southwest Michigan Directory Article]
* [ Israelite House of David Homepage]
* [ Musical Traditions feature on Israelite House of David web site]
* [ Mary's City of David]

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